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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
First India-Bangladesh train link
By John Sudworth
BBC News, Dhaka

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A train carrying Indian government officials has crossed the border and arrived in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.

The 500km (310 mile) journey marked the resumption of a direct passenger rail service between the two countries.

The link was suspended following the war between India and Pakistan more than four decades ago.

The diesel engine pulling five newly-painted coaches left Calcutta early on Sunday morning but arrived in Dhaka about two hours late.

It had been due to arrive at 1630 local time (1030 GMT).

The test run was the first full journey for the Moitree (Friendship) Express, but there were no paying passengers on board the train.

The train carried an Indian government delegation to meet their counterparts in Dhaka to finalise the timetable for the new service.

Symbolism

The driver gave it a blast on the horn for history's sake, as the train, with its India Railways insignia, rolled into Dhaka draped in bunting.

The two-hour delay in arriving seemed a mere trifle when compared to the 42 years the people of Bangladesh had been waiting for a direct train service to carry them across the border.

In 1965, Bangladesh was part of Pakistan when the war with India severed the international rail link.

That has remained suspended despite Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan a few years later.

In the 1990s, direct buses began running between Dhaka and Calcutta for the first time.

But the train has symbolic importance.

With seats likely to start from around $8 (£4), it will be popular with the thousands of Bangladeshis seeking medical treatment on the other side of the border.

Others will use it for visiting friends and relatives in India, with whom they share a common language.

The full Dhaka to Calcutta passenger service will start within the next few weeks.


SEE ALSO
'Casualties' in border shelling
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28 Jun 05 |  South Asia
India-Bangladesh border gunfire
04 Mar 05 |  South Asia
New India-Dhaka bus link
22 Sep 03 |  South Asia

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